This should’ve been so easy. I planned ahead. I made sure none of the recipes were complicated or sensitive.
I just wanted to introduce Quinn to the joys of psychotic holiday baking and candy making.
Sugar cookies – we’ve made these before
Peanut butter cups – he can shape the filling like rolling out Play-doh
Cracker candy – 4 ingredients, what could go wrong?
Peanut Brittle – again 4 ingredients, done a billion times before
Chocolate covered pretzels – Melt chocolate, dip, done. Right?
When finished, we should have about 90 cookies and 10 pounds of candy.
Night before prep started the catastrophe. The sugar cookie dough and the centers to the peanut butter cups needed to be made ahead and chilled overnight.
Cookies first. Ingredients all measured, dough hook firmly attached to the stand mixer and away we go. Quinn loves baking. He gets to break eggs. We followed the recipe to the letter, meaning we worked from my head-space toward a dough I have made countless times since I was twelve.
When it was all mixed well, we turned it out into plastic wrap, flattened it into a rough, Frisbee sized disc and stuck it in the fridge.
Next up, peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs and a wee bit of 10x sugar all mixed into a soft squishy dough. I broke off the pieces and Quinn shaped them into the little balls.
He stopped to wash his hands no less than 20 times during this process, as he’d drop his hands down and have the dog promptly lick them.
The peanut butter cups are popular, so I made a double batch. Two trays, 40 on each tray. Open the fridge, slide the first tray into the bottom.
I didn’t ask Quinn to get the rest for me. I actively thought about this and opted against it – we wouldn’t want to drop any, now, would we? It is amazing how many times that thought would piss me off during the next twelve hours.
Instead, I left the fridge open, turned and crossed the kitchen to get the second tray. I have a small kitchen. And for once in my life, I did not get sidetracked.
When I turned back around the dog had her whole head in the fridge scarfing down wads of peanut butter like she’d not eaten in a week.
Pretty sure the neighbors heard me, but the dog didn’t even flinch.
I dropped the tray back onto the counter with enough force to have a few little balls pop off and land on the counter to roll onto the floor.
I wrestled the dog out of the fridge and looked at the nearly empty tray.
This was my fault. So I sighed and looked at Quinn as I tossed the tray in the sink. “Well, buddy, not as many peanut butter cups to hand out as we started with, but we still have a lot. And you did a great job on your part.”
I nudged the hovering dog out of my way and put the other tray in the fridge, closing the door.
Done until morning, when the real fun will begin.
First up – cookies. Bake those off so they have plenty of time to cool before decorating. Take out the wad of dough, split in half. This still feels. . . gooey.
Hmmm. I’ll add a little flour to this half and see if I can get a better bind for the cut outs. Bit of flour, too dry, a dash of milk, gooey again. Mix and switch, play with additions but it wasn’t happening. I settled that half of the dough on the edge of the board.
Drop cookies then. Ha! Drop cookies! Baaaaaaaaahahaha!
See, that’s funny because 2 seconds later when I bent to get the pan, I bumped the edge of the bread board with my elbow and it levered up to dump that chunk of dough straight onto the floor.
Yup. At the exact same moment the dough hit the floor, the flour on the board flying up into the air caused Quinn to sneeze. All over the other half of the dough. Now it’s even more gooey.
Did I mention that most of this food was for a Christmas party that afternoon?
Ok. No cookies.
Dipping what’s left of our peanut butter cups. Chocolate into the melting pot. Stir. Wait. Stir. Wait. Stir. Why in Hell is this chocolate seizing?!?
I know what I’m doing here. This should not be happening. Everything was dry. Working with a nice, low temp. Good quality chocolate.
A few choice words (Mama, you shouldn’t say that) later and the bowl of chocolate was in the trash, and I started from scratch.
This time it worked, and we had a nice, creamy chocolate. Dip the peanut butter centers, place on parchment paper to dry. So far, so good.
On to the pretzels. Quinn got to do these. Dip, swirl, tap off the excess, then sprinkle with Christmas colored sprinkles. Dip, swirl, tap, sprinkle, repeat.
“Wait, I’m running out of hands. Hold on. Let me get the rack for holding these. Wait. Wait!”
We may have lost a few of these when I bent down to look under the cupboard for the cooling rack that so nicely slants these upright for drying. The dog might have bitten off the tops of the ones in my right hand.
I’m not saying this happened, because everybody knows that chocolate isn’t good for dogs. That might have been what happened.
I just know that when I stood up I held a fistful of pretzel stumps.
But I found the rack and after tossing the stumps to the dog (just the pretzel part) I even had a free hand with which to extract it.
Too bad Quinn hadn’t waited. We now had a half-dozen more sticks rendered inedible when he stacked them like cordwood and the chocolate mushed together and made a gigantic chocolate covered pretzel that only the dog could get her mouth around.
No! Of course I didn’t feed the dog chocolate covered pretzels. I was merely illustrating the size of the wad. Jeesh.
All told, between those casualties and the ones Quinn ate before we even started, we ended up with roughly half the number of pretzels I’d planned on.
Time to shift gears. Hummus. Want to give it time for the flavors to meld.
Chick peas. Food processor. Couple of drops of oil. Go.
. . .
Since when is my food processor broken? It worked fine last week. I do not have time to make this by hand.
Fine. I’ll buy some hummus on the way. Cram that failure on the far counter to deal with later.
We still have brittle to make.
Sugar, corn syrup a bit of butter bubbling away in the pot, add in the baking soda and peanuts right at the end for a nice bubbly, peanut brittle. Pour onto the silpat and spread. Later Quinn, can pound on it for breaking.
Right now he’s laying out all the little crackers for cracker candy. A quick wash out of the brittle pot, then add brown sugar and butter to the pot. Stir and bubble until the candy thermometer says done. Pour quickly over Quinn’s geometric masterpiece and slide into the oven.
Great. Both the brittle and the cracker candy are going according to plan. When the buzzer goes off, add the chocolate topping to the cracker candy, and it’s all done but the smashing.
We set everything aside and went to get cleaned up. We need to leave in an hour.
A quick check on the brittle as I came back out from my shower.
Hmmm. This is not setting up quickly. Maybe it is too hot in the kitchen. Just set them onto the table in the cold room.
All freshly dressed and scrubbed, it was time to finish. Grab the brittle first, turn it out onto the breadboard. Thunk.
Quinn stood eagerly at my elbow waiting for the rubber mallet smack down to commence. Go for it buddy.
I left him to it to get the veggies and peanut butter cups out of the fridge.
Open the door and swish, bang! The bowl with the salvaged half of the peanut butter cups slid out to bang on the floor, popping off the cheap lid to spill half the contents out onto the floor.
I’ll not detail the scuffle that ensued as I tried to keep the dog from chomping down the chocolate cups on the floor with one hand and tried to keep the ones still in the bowl above her head with the other. I’m pretty sure it looked like some sort of drunken, interpretive hula dance.
This concept was strengthened by Quinn’s oblivious drumming on the peanut brittle with the rubber mallet.
Once I dealt with the fridge stuff I turned to see how Quinn was making out with the brittle. It wasn’t. . . brittle.
It was a rubbery, foldable mat of amber sweetness, studded with now-flattened peanut fragments.
Why did the peanut brittle not set???
It must have been the thermometer – I must not have brought it to a high enough temperature before removing it from the heat.
Which means . . .
The cracker candy looked ok. So I gave the mallet to Quinn again and he made short work of breaking it up, laughing all the way.
It broke up well, so I scooped up the pieces and placed them in a bowl.
But of course one never serves what one has not tasted.
So I took a bite.
And instead of the nice, crunchy toffee that should have had a nice edge to it, I got a chocolate covered grainy mess of can’t spit-this-out-fast-enough.
Two days of working in the kitchen and all we had to show for it are a 1/4 batch of peanut butter cups and a handful of chocolate covered pretzels.
Hooray! Store-bought everything, all around!